It took Julia Miller and her husband, Mark, just one hour to decide on the split-level house in the Wessynton neighborhood the first time they drove up to it in July 2011.
“A good friend who’s a Realtor knew a house on the water was up for sale,” Miller said. “We went to look at it, fell in love and moved in.”
Nestled in the hilly woodlands of southeastern Fairfax County, about half an hour from downtown, Wessynton is a neighborhood of 156 houses built in the late 1960s and early ’70s on land that was once part of George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate.
Twenty-three of those mid-century modern houses are on Little Hunting Creek, a Potomac River tributary that provides all residents with access for fishing, boating and waterskiing. Wessynton Forest, covering much of the 20 acres of common property, runs through the community.
Centuries ago, the Doeg Indians hunted these woods along the Potomac. The land was eventually granted to an English family known by various names, including Wessynton, and the 500-acre Mount Vernon estate was built there.
The Mount Vernon Ladies Association took up the mantle of preserving the first president’s home and estate. In the late 1960s, it sold the 65-acre parcel that is now the Wessynton neighborhood to secure funds for its ongoing maintenance.
Houses blend into landscape: The development’s architect, Nicholas A. Pappas, designed its houses to blend with the landscape — they are set into the curve of the land along winding roads in the woods, providing seclusion. There are five designs — Meadow, River, Forest, Garden and Manor — all with large windows, open layouts, redwood ceilings and slate floors.
“The architect used a palette of earth-tone colors — sand, brown, beige, olive, pale yellow and the occasional muted salmon or rust-red door — and today we try to stay within that color range,” said Jim Clark, a former president of the homeowners association.
Roofs are the same brownish orange and mailboxes are a uniform brown wooden structure. “We have someone in the community manufacture them for us,” he said.
An architectural review panel ensures that the houses remain harmonious with nature and the original vision.
“Whenever a house is sold, we provide a disclosure package with information,” said Clark, “so that anyone who buys here is perfectly aware they’re buying in a community with rules and regulations.”
Abundant wildlife: “Just this morning I saw a pileated woodpecker,” said Julia Miller, president of the Wessynton Homes Association. “We have bald eagles, geese, ducks, snakes, great blue herons and egrets.”
“Wild turkeys come through and fox, barred owls, deer,” said Jim Drewry, a resident since 1987 and chair of the architectural review committee. “You’ll always see people walking and there are lots of dogs.”
Chris Pryately, a resident since 1992 and master gardener, spearheaded landscaping design eight years ago. “We brought in specialists to offer recommendations for managing our community land and waterfront for the next 40 to 50 years,” she said.
Under a canopy of hickories, poplars, and red, white and willow oaks, volunteers planted Solomon’s seal, Christmas ferns, American holly, strawberry bush, sweet bay magnolia, bald cypress and other natives.
Community entrances were planted with native shadbush, Virginia fringe tree, redbud and intermixed with knockout roses, crepe myrtle, deutzia, boxwood and spirea. A rain garden, constructed by Fairfax County’s stormwater-management unit, was also planted.
Efforts were made to control mice and squirrels by attracting predators; English ivy was removed, and brush piles were strategically placed to entice foxes back.
A plethora of amenities: The homeowners association’s $808 in annual dues pays for a variety of services in the community, including a monthly newsletter.
On a recent morning, Clark, co-chair of the parks and grounds committee, walked the property with representatives from a landscape company pointing out common areas that will need cleanup in the spring. The homeowners association is interviewing ground maintenance firms for a contract renewal.
A pool, clubhouse, playground, boat deck, trails, tennis and basketball courts are open to all. Social get-togethers especially around the pool are popular.
Transit and proximity: Route 1 and the George Washington Memorial Parkway are the main arteries in and out of the community. Old Town Alexandria and Reagan National Airport are within 20 minutes.
County Bus 152 runs on Route 235 to the Huntington station on Metro’s Yellow Line.
The Kingstowne shopping center, two Safeways, a Shoppers supermarket and a Costco are close.
Living there: Wessynton, Zip code 22309, is bordered by Woodland Lane to the north, Little Hunting Creek to the east, the George Washington parkway to the south and Route 235 to the west. Upper Wessynton, between Surrey Drive and Wessynton Way, juts west of 235.
According to agent Clay Kime, founder of PlanToMove.com with Re/Max Preferred Properties, two houses are on the market for $650,000, both with four bedrooms and three bathrooms. No properties are under contract. Over the past year, from January 2013 to January 2014, 13 homes sold, at prices ranging from $540,000 for four bedrooms and three bathrooms to $1.25 million, also for four bedrooms, three baths.
Schools: Woodley Hills Elementary, Whitman Middle, Mount Vernon High.
Crime: Fairfax County police said there were two assaults, two thefts and one instance of vandalism in 2013.
Audrey Hoffer is a freelance writer.